What is the Difference between Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak?

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By Maria Turner • Last Updated: December 24, 2023

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What is the Difference between Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak

Steak is one of the world most loved dish, especially when it comes from the best cow part. This all started in the early 8000 B.C. when people began domesticating cows.

Since then, humans have literately constructed a whole cutting diagram on the body of the cow. Both the flank and the skirt steak have their origin from the cow butcher diagram.

But, why does it even matter to choose meat from different parts of the cow? What is the role of the cow butcher diagram and why does it matter? In this article, you’ll learn about the differences and facts of the skirt and flank steak.

To get a better understanding of how all this works, you should have a smooth background about how steak works. Steak from different parts of the cow results in different flavors and nutrition. The cow butcher diagram is designed to indicate and separate the values of certain meat coming from different parts of the cow. Those parts were later named into different types of steaks to make a clear indication.

What is The Skirt Steak?

The skirt steak is gotten from the rare quarter of the cow. It is considered long and has high-fat content. It is mainly used in restaurants to make fajitas, Ranchera, and Cornish pasties. The skirt steak is known for its tenderness which makes it much rarer.

What is The Flank Steak

The flank steak is one of the most popular around. The flank is cut from the lower chest of the cow where the abdominal muscles are found. The presence of muscles in the lower chest of the cow makes the flank steak less tender than other types of steaks. The lower torso of the cow is also known as the belly area.

The flank steak is mainly sliced against the grain. Slicing it across the grain results in thin slices and tenderness. The main characteristics looked for in every type of stake are tenderness and flavor. In the case of the flank steak, it is more flavorful than it is tender. This makes the flank steak an ideal choice to marinate.

Difference Between Skirt Steak and Flank Steak

The differences all boil down to three things; tenderness, flavor, and nutrition. The main confusion associated with these two steaks has to do with the part of the cow they are cut. This is so important because different meats cut from different parts of the cow have different nutritional values. You should understand that the cow has a huge body which is influenced by several factors.

A study published by the University of Tennessee found that 500 pounds of pure meat can be made per cow after trimming. Movement of the cow is a form of exercise which makes specific muscles to become stronger than others just like when humans exercise. Such movements of the muscles influence how much fat is retained in certain areas causing differences in flavor.

Muscles that are used frequently have stronger fibers resulting in higher nutrient contents such as collagen. Now, let’s take a look at how all these components differentiate the two.

Differences in Grain Structure

The grain structure mainly has to do with the nature of muscles found on the meat. It describes how the fibers in the meat line with each other. This is the long strands seen when meat is being cut through.

Due to the location of the flank around the lower abdomen, the tissues around the area exercise more making the fibers much stronger. The skirt is located along the diaphragm muscles an area where the muscles are less stretched making the fibers a lot tender.

Taste Difference

Taste majorly has to do with what is called the fat content. Fat is an ingredient which contributes a lot to taste. When fat mixes with specific proteins found in meat it increases the flavor of the meat.

The skirt steak has 12.1 gram of fat while the flank steak has only 8.2 gram of fat. This makes the skirt steak much tastier than many steaks. How the fibers align also indicates how well the steak marinates.

The Difference when Grilling Skirt Compared to Flank Steak

Now if you’ve understood how all those things work – It is time to know the roles of each of those things in cooking. There are always two factors that mainly contribute to cooking namely, time and temperature.

The tighter the fibers of the meat are the higher the temperature and time needed for grilling. The skirt steak is a lot tender and thinner which makes it faster to grill. The flank steak is much tougher which means more heat is needed.

The Verdict

Although both the flank and skirt steaks are recognized from the parts they are cut from; some attributes may vary in certain instances. In cases where a younger cow is slaughtered the muscles are less exercised making certain parts a lot tender. Older cows have tougher tissues because they’ve worked a lot better than the younger ones.

Another factor to be considered is the type of cow slaughtered. If it is a farm cow, we consider it to have worked harder meaning its muscles and fibers are much tougher. We can conclude that skirt steak is much flavorful, and tender while the flank steak is more nutritious.